Damned, The (2006)

The Damned reviewStarring Todd Bridges, Victor Zaragoza, Jose Rosette, Chris Angelo, Elias Castillo, James Logan, Michael Rinks

Written and Directed by Jose and Ed Quiroz

The Damned is one truly appropriate title, as this movie is indeed damned. If you watch it, then you’re damned too. The tagline on the case should have been “Abandon all hope ye who pop this in their DVD player.”

The Damned is sort of like Fright Night in that it has to do with a murderous vampire that moves into the neighborhood of a young man who uncovers the terrifying truth and needs the help of his friends and a supposed vampire hunting expert to deal with the murderous bloodsuckers. There are some differences though — tremendous differences. The Damned is set in the barrios of Oakland, the vampires all look and behave like drug thugs whose skulls should be getting bashed in by Vic Mackey on an episode of “The Shield”, Todd Bridges of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame replaces Roddy McDowell in the role of the hapless vampire hunter, the trio of friends spend most of the movie sitting on the couch arguing over how they should deal with their vampire problem, the production values are slightly above the level of homemade porn, and in the biggest difference of all, The Damned sucks on a monumental scale. This is easily one of the sorriest excuses for a horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Someone, anyone, please tell me how crap like this gets released? This is an amateurish home movie, not something deserving of wide release DVD distribution. This does not belong on the shelf at Blockbuster; it deserves to sit on the shelf of the people that made it so that they can corner unfortunate acquaintances in the future with the phrase, “Hey, wanna see the movie I made?” I have to wonder if even the Quiroz Bros. think the film they’ve made is worth a damn. This isn’t guerrilla filmmaking; this is the filmmaking equivalent of backyard wrestling at its worst. I can’t think of a single redeeming quality, and I sure as hell cannot comprehend how any self respecting production company would think this is a film worth distributing. That the distribution company released it to DVD with some eye-catching artwork but didn’t bother to include a single image from the movie on the back of the DVD case should tell you that even they knew the film they were putting out was worthless garbage. Damn you, Image Entertainment!

Do I just keep renting the horrendous ones or is horrendous filmmaking the norm for no budget urban horror movies these days? I’m hard pressed to think of a single one I’ve watched that didn’t end in tears on my part. The Quiroz Bros. previously made one called Hood of the Living Dead, a film I did not see but the fact that they’ve already made a film tells me they cannot even use the first-time filmmaker excuse to justify just how rotten their new one is.

After young Tom Castro inadvertently stumbles upon the truth about the new neighbors and stakes one with his broken baseball bat, the vampires vow bloody vengeance. Their repeatedly clumsy attempts at doing so consist mainly of sneaking up on either Tom or his two buds, a skinny horror movie geek and a chubby non-horror movie geek, then standing there snarling or cackling at them, showing off their fangs, and patiently waiting for someone to do something to run them off. It gets so pathetic that at one point the following actual dialog exchange takes place between two of the vamps:

“Why didn’t we kill them last night?”

“Because they were expecting us to.”

Oh, is that why? And here I thought it was because if they had, then the movie would have only been 35 minutes long, not that I would have been upset if it had been.

Enter Todd Bridges (“Willis” in the classic TV catchphrase “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”) as a bumbling private investigator turned wannabe vampire hunter who has been pursuing this particular vampire clan along with his Caucasian sidekick that looks like a smaller, surfer dude version of ‘Dauber’ from the sitcom “Coach”. Todd Bridges looks like Sir Laurence Olivier compared to the rest of this cast. I cannot use the word “actor” to describe the truly atrocious attempts at acting on the part of the cast. “People that recite lines of scripted dialog” would be a more fitting description, although they’re not even particularly good at doing that little.

Tom and company will spend much of the movie sitting around the living room (at least half the film takes place here) arguing over the possible existence of vampires and, once they finally agree on the topic, figuring out what they’re going to do about it. To break up the monotony they’ll occasionally have these conversations standing up, and in one scene they actually go outside to talk. Likewise, the vampires also prefer to stand around their new residence and talk about killing Tom and his friends. They break up their monotony by either venturing out to feed on characters that are introduced just long enough so they can be killed off moments later or going about their insipid attempts to wreak havoc on our heroes. And let’s not forget about those edge-of-your-seat scenes in which the main police investigator and the head forensic scientist discuss the murders in great detail. The police actually blame the vampire killings on a rogue mountain lion at first. This is yet another subplot that just keeps going around in circles.

The movie attempts to have something resembling a storyline, but it’s such a directionless mess that it always falls back on people sitting or standing around talking like they’re reading from cue cards (badly!) with the occasional pathetic vampire encounter tossed in, and all this goes on for what feels like 76 minutes of eternity. I haven’t even mentioned the painful punk rock that permeates the film’s soundtrack. Somewhere in heaven, The Ramones are weeping.

About the only good thing that can come from a movie like The Damned is that it should give inspiration to all wannabe filmmakers out there that they too can get their film nationally distributed in the biggest video store chains in the country regardless of how terrible it is on every conceivable level. On second thought, that might not be such a good thing after all.

0 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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